Lessons from the Salish Sea: Embracing Flexibility

Curled up in our teacup-sized cabin, I rested my forehead against the porthole and watched the steady stream of rain as it sheeted down into the sea. I was aboard Wild Rye, our 32-foot sailboat and tinier-than-tiny home, at the dock on Cortes Island where we had spent the last month.

My partner and I had moved aboard Wild Rye several months earlier with the goal of sailing our way from Salt Spring Island up the beautiful, intricate coast of British Columbia and eventually continuing our way around the world.

The world, it turned out, had other plans: after only a few weeks of sailing, we had washed up on Cortes Island with a broken engine in need of replacement.

Burrowing into the chaos of the cabin to escape the rain – trust me, chaos is not a strong enough word to describe an 8-by-6 foot space that is simultaneously a kitchen, bedroom, workshop, and engine room – I wondered what exactly I was doing here.

I had graduated from university four years ago, armed with the passionate certainty that I was going to make a difference in the world and excited to get to work. Now here I was: no job, no assets to speak of except for a broken-down boat, armed with nothing but a handful of vague travel plans that seemed stubbornly reluctant to manifest themselves.

Despite it all, I felt surprisingly content. I realized that perhaps it didn’t matter how far we went; even the short journey from Salt Spring to Cortes had done wonders for my mental health. The anxiety over money and work that often plagued me was gone, replaced by a calm certainty that everything would work out eventually.

Sailing is a form of travel that teaches flexibility.

Water flows around obstacles; it takes the easiest route, or where there is none, it patiently carves its own. Water will wear away anything, given enough time. Floating in the Salish Sea, Wild Rye held softly in its salty embrace, I had started to learn how to embody that fluidity. The small worries dissolved, my mind opened to new possibilities and I could see the world with fresh, inquisitive eyes.

That feeling of going with the flow is what I love most about travel of any kind. It’s easier to accept changes in plan when adventure is the goal.

It’s easier to live in less comfortable conditions because, not being “at home”, there are no firm expectations for how things should be. It’s easier to invite conversations with strangers because that’s the best way to get to know a new place. All of these things make it possible to explore our surroundings with more curiosity and excitement than we can usually muster in our day-to-day lives at home.

Listening to the steady thrum of rain on the cabin top, that grey day on Cortes, I realized that I didn’t have to venture very far from home to feel the thrill of possibility that travel brings – I didn’t even have to be doing anything particularly exciting.

All I had to do was take a breath of salty ocean air, open my eyes to the world unfolding all around me, and learn to see the beauty in it.

Lover of good books, hot coffee and the great outdoors in any form. Currently exploring the coast of British Columbia in a small sailboat with my whale-obsessed partner in crime. Check out my adventures on Instagram.

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